Oxycontin: Twelve Hours in Hell
A horrifying series on Oxycontin and similar synthetic narcotics in the LA Times. Purdue pharmaceuticals made $31 billion off of the claim that patients only needed to take one pill every twelve hours. This wasn’t true, and it helps explain the high addiction rate to the drug:
- Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief. Since the drug’s debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.
- The company has held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue. OxyContin’s market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration.
When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized hundreds of sales reps to “refocus” physicians on 12-hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud. NOW!!” one manager wrote to her staff.
Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own.